Sardar Sarovar Dam

The Sardar Sarovar Dam is a colossal structure situated in the western Indian state of Gujarat. It stands as a testament to human engineering and technological prowess, playing a pivotal role in water management, irrigation, and power generation in the region. This comprehensive overview will delve into the various aspects of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, covering its history, significance, construction, controversies, environmental impact, and the benefits it has brought to the people of Gujarat.

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Sardar Sarovar Dam

History and Background

The genesis of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project can be traced back to the early 1960s when the first proposals were made to harness the waters of the Narmada River for the socio-economic development of the region. The idea gained momentum in the following decades, and the project received formal approval in the early 1980s. The dam is named after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a prominent figure in the Indian independence movement and the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India.

Planning and Approval (1946-1987): The idea of harnessing the Narmada River’s waters for irrigation and power generation dates back to the late 1940s. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the project gained significant momentum. The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal was formed in 1969 to address water-sharing conflicts among the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. In 1980, the tribunal issued its final award, allocating water among the states and approving the construction of the dam.

Construction Begins (1987): Construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam officially began in 1987. The project faced numerous challenges, including environmental concerns, displacement of local communities, and protests by activists who opposed the large-scale displacement and ecological impact.

Controversies and Protests (1987-2000): The dam project became a focal point for environmental and human rights activists. Critics argued that the dam’s construction would displace thousands of people, submerge fertile land, and harm the environment. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a social movement led by environmentalist Medha Patkar, gained prominence during this period for its protests against the dam.

Legal Battles (1995-2017): The Sardar Sarovar Dam faced legal challenges in India’s courts. In 1995, the Supreme Court of India granted permission to raise the dam’s height in stages, subject to certain conditions. The legal battles continued over the years, with the court monitoring rehabilitation efforts for displaced families.

Project Completion and Inauguration (2017): Despite the controversies and legal battles, the dam’s construction continued. In 2017, the dam was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The height of the dam was gradually increased in phases, allowing for the storage of a larger volume of water.

Benefits and Criticisms: The completion of the Sardar Sarovar Dam brought benefits such as increased irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, and improved water supply for various purposes. However, it continued to face criticism for the environmental and social impacts, including displacement and submergence of land.

Geographical Location

The dam is located in Gujarat’s Narmada district and Kevadia village, on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra. To the west of the dam, is Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa plateau, where the Narmada river dissects the hills tracts and culminates in the Mathwar hills.

The dam is 1,210 meters long and stands 163 meters tall. The Sardar Sarovar reservoir has a gross capacity of 0.95 million hectares meter and live storage capacity of 0.586 million hectares meter. It occupies an area of 37,000ha with an average length of 214 km and width of 1.7 km. The river catchment area above the dam site is 88,000 square kilometers. It has a spillway discharging capacity of 87,000 cubic meters a second. This dam is one case study to learn about Integrated River Basin Planning, Development and Management.

Technical Specifications

Height and Length: The Sardar Sarovar Dam stands tall at a height of about 163 meters (535 feet), making it one of the tallest dams in the world. The length of the dam is approximately 1,210 meters (3,970 feet).

Reservoir Capacity: The dam’s reservoir, known as the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir, has a vast storage capacity of around 9.5 million acre-feet. This massive reservoir is a key component of the multipurpose project.

Hydroelectric Power Generation: The dam is equipped with powerhouses that generate hydroelectricity. The installed capacity for power generation is around 1,450 megawatts, contributing significantly to the energy needs of Gujarat and neighboring states.

Canal Network: The dam has an extensive canal network designed for the efficient distribution of water for irrigation purposes. The canals facilitate the transfer of water to various regions, promoting agricultural development.

Construction and Development

The construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam was a complex and challenging undertaking that involved the collaboration of multiple agencies and the relocation of communities residing in the dam’s catchment area. The project faced numerous hurdles, including environmental concerns, protests from displaced communities, and legal battles. Construction began in the 1980s, and the dam was completed in stages, with the final height achieved in recent years.

Controversies and Social Impact

The Sardar Sarovar Dam has been a subject of controversy and debate, primarily due to its impact on the environment and the displacement of local communities. The dam’s reservoir submerged large tracts of land, leading to the displacement of numerous villages. Critics argue that the dam has adversely affected the livelihoods of the displaced people and caused environmental degradation.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a social movement led by activists such as Medha Patkar, emerged in response to the displacement caused by the dam. The NBA advocates for the rights of those affected by the project and has been instrumental in drawing attention to the social and environmental implications of large dams.

Environmental Impact

Ecological Changes: The construction of the dam and the formation of the reservoir have led to significant changes in the local ecology. The submergence of land has altered natural habitats, impacting flora and fauna in the region.

Water Quality: The dam has also raised concerns about water quality in the Narmada River. The standing water in the reservoir may lead to issues such as sedimentation and waterborne diseases.

Downstream Effects: The altered flow of the Narmada River downstream of the dam has ecological implications for areas dependent on the river’s natural flow.

Benefits and Positive Impacts

Despite the controversies and challenges, the Sardar Sarovar Dam has brought about several positive changes in the region:

Irrigation: The dam’s canal network facilitates extensive irrigation, benefiting farmers in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Increased agricultural productivity has contributed to rural development.

Hydropower Generation: The dam’s power generation capacity has added a significant source of clean energy to the region, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Drinking Water Supply: The dam provides a reliable source of drinking water to numerous villages and towns in Gujarat. This has improved access to clean water for both urban and rural populations.


The Sardar Sarovar Dam stands as a monumental achievement in engineering and infrastructure development, addressing critical needs related to water management, irrigation, and power generation. However, its construction and operation have not been without controversy, with concerns raised about environmental and social impacts. Balancing the benefits and challenges posed by such mega-projects remains a complex task for policymakers, requiring a careful consideration of ecological, social, and economic factors.

In conclusion, the Sardar Sarovar Dam symbolizes the intricate interplay between human development and environmental sustainability. It serves as a reminder of the ongoing discourse surrounding large-scale infrastructure projects and the need for comprehensive and inclusive planning to ensure the well-being of both people and the planet.

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